Ever since it happened, the rape attempt in Season 6 has been an elephant in the room, not only because of the continuation in various forms of Buffy and Spike's relationship, but because it was handled poorly and turned into a tool for advancing Spike's character while Buffy emerged unaffected. This has been flavoring the incessant complaints from my side, the B/A shippers, for many years, but it's such a glaring fault that I've seen it come up among Team Cheekbones, too. Buffy's story shouldn't be all about Spike. A sexual assault survivor's story shouldn't be all about the aggressor. It's common sense.
More specifically, one of my own biggest peeves about Spuffy is that Buffy doesn't appear to have any negative associations regarding sex with Spike. "He's a different person now" is all well and good when it comes to forgiveness, friendship, what-have-you, but it doesn't explain how she can hop into bed with him when the last experience she had with that exact same body was terrifying and violating - and all the ones before that were symptomatic of a bad time in her life, to say the least. Did anyone catch that line when she wakes up next to him a few issues ago and asks if he turned evil? Because apparently the closest comparison she has to this is the first time she slept with Angel?
So after the cringebinge of their rekindled romance throughout this season, Gage suddenly pulls a 180 and addresses the issue with some tact and insight, and part of me feels like they've called my bluff and I need to acknowledge the improvement. I'm not martyring myself to a cause here; I didn't promise anyone that I'd change my mind about Spuffy if certain needs were met, and I'm so done with these comics that I don't actually want them on my side anymore. But I'm still hesitating over this. It might be, like Janas said, that it's too little too late. I might just be objecting on a visceral level to anything that the writers are using as a green light to make Buffy/Spike look healthier. Mostly, though, I'm curious about whether the improvement is a real thing or if it's just a random event that caught my attention by lining up to what I've been bitching about all this time.
If I didn't have a pony in the race, I think this is what I'd say: it makes sense that Buffy's got a hidden trigger. It's good that she can finally tell Spike that her feelings aren't there to validate or condemn his own. The parallel to the domestic abuse survivor provides a way to see Spike-with-a-soul as an innocent new boyfriend who, through no fault of his own, has something in common with an abusive ex. And overall, it's a good issue, whether or not I want it to be.
And I don't. The only thing that would save this series for me now is an all-out retcon, I'm talking an "it was all a dream" caliber retcon, and I know as well as you do that that kind of device doesn't save without destroying at the same time. Think of Angel & Faith S9, when Gage tried to repair the mess that Brad Meltzer had made of the Twilight arc. He made ample use of mind control as an explanation for Angel's acts, and was thus accused of whitewashing the character, warping canon, and taking the easy route. Not a lot of fans were willing to accept that it was the only thing he could have done. If Twilight had been left alone as the story of Angel going evil because he's a dunce, it would have already contradicted everything we knew about Angel. Better to have one weak arc in the comics than to undermine a major character's entire history.
This is the same deal: the new idea presented to us, that is, Buffy dealing responsibly with her trauma at Spike's hands, doesn't jive with what we already know about both characters, but it's the only palatable option. If you can't bear to let go of the story you once loved, like I couldn't in Season 9, you accept the correction gratefully and move on. There's a limit to how many times a comic series can pull this trick, though, and I'm not saying we're getting close to it here, I'm saying we've already passed it and that's a major factor in why these are generally not very satisfying comics anymore.
There are so many things that I find wrong with Spuffy that I lost hope long ago that any of them would be addressed. Now that one of them has, I'd like to take it as a sign that I might be pleasantly surprised again, but I can't. We've gone too far down the wrong trail, and stacked with the aimless plots, decline in writing quality, and the current editors shell game, it's not just a case of not enough good with the bad - it's not enough good with the good.
I liked the Xander/Anya stuff, though. If things had gone differently...